January 22nd, 2008, 03:58 AM
Coaches, trains and Automobiles
After enjoying reading the latest ditty on the Buckton Massive blog I thought I'd take you all on a trip down memory lane. September 1999 and I was chilling out on the couch, drinking an ice cold can of Special Brew, smoking a ciggy and watching the Simpsons. It was quiet and peaceful, tranquility personified. Suddenly I could hear something in the background. Feck it's the phone. Simpson's, phone, Simpson's, phone. Regrettably I picked up the phone. It was Mark."What yer doin' this weekend?""Nowt, I'll probably go down the pub""There's a Short-billed Dowitcher in Scotland""Thats nice""It's the first British record""Thats nice""We're going for it, d'yer wanna come with us" My brain was screaming no but my list was screaming yes. Like many other birders the list beat my brain down, like when Marvin Hagler kicked the .... out of Alan Minter. I made arrangements to get from Pembrokeshire to Sandy in Bedfordshire and got me head down on Thursday night. The alarm clock went off at 3am Friday morning. Just as a side note I'd like to mention how much I hate alarm clocks especially at 3am. My eyes felt and looked like ....holes in the snow! I drove to the sleepy and dreary town of Pembroke and waited for the National Express coach to London. As soon as I found my seat I got me head down again wondering why the feck I was going to Scotland to see a Short-billed Dowitcher. I woke up as the .... reakin' coach approached London Victoria bus station, it was about 10am. Yeah a 4 hour journey in a car takes 6-7 on a National Express coach. They should really be called National Feckin About, they really do redefine the word express. The tube beckoned and I joined all the other hundreds of zombies making there way from one side of the smoke to the other. I can't really remember what godforsaken train station I went to, but it allowed me to jump on a train to Sandy, where Mark and Jenny were waiting. Deprived of sleep and cracked up on adrenalin I joined up with M & J and headed North on the A1 to sunny Scotland. In Jenny's Skoda! It still amazes me to this day the number of miles that car endured. A true testimony to Skoda technology. My feckin' Austin Maestro would have blown up half way there! The drive took forever, because we had to drive 500 miles on ....ty roads stuck behind wagons, waiting for Farmer friggin Barleymow and his sheep to cross in front of us and the dozens of old feckers in Morris Minors heading for the Pontins in Skeg. We arrived in the small village of Rosehearty in Aberdeenshire sometime around 3am on Saturday morning. Yep that's a full 24 hours after I'd whacked me alarm clock back home in my comfortable cosy flat in Pembrokeshire. I dreamed of being curled up under my Thundercats duvet in a deeply satisying sleep. Instead I was scrunched up in the front seat of a Skoda wrapped in my pathetically inadequate fleece freezing my fecking bollocks off. You see Rosehearty is as far north as Newfoundland and the wind was whipping in from the Nor'east. It was cold. None of this pussy cold weather we get in Tallahassee but real cold weather. Wind that feels like yer face is being touched up by Freddy feckin Kreuger. After failing to sleep for any length of time I noticed that the sun was finally touching the horizon. It was about 8am. There were dozens of cars scattered along the road. Each one began to spew out its contents, Britain's twitching fraternity. We gathered on the windswept beach, our teeth chattering and there in front of us was the first Short-billed Dowitcher to have graced our fair Island. It was a juvenile and the markings at the centre of its tertials were the diagnostic feature sperating it from its close relative the Long-billed Dowitcher. My first reaction was, what a bag of ....e! My second reaction was, what a bag of feckin .... biscuits and my third was, Oh look there's a flock of Curlew Sandpipers. There were Little Stints as well and out on the bay I could see a raft of Common Eiders, 3 Velvet Scoters and a few Long-tailed Ducks. This wasn't bad at all. I watched the dowitcher for a few minutes and drew a really great picture highlighting the diagnositc feature. Things started to look up as we suddenly learnt that there was a nearby cafe that was selling a slap up breakfast for five quid. 20 minutes later I was enjoying a lovely cuppa tea, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, fried bread, mushrooms, toast and strawberry jam. It couldn't get much better than this. Feck the bird I'd have driven all this way just for the breakfast. Little did I know that I'd one day be living 30 minutes away from .... loads of Short-billed Dowitchers! Now that is irony. Mark had a picture of the dowitcher framed for me as a wedding gift. Above it is the Veery we twitched at St. Levan in Cornwall. Two species I see pretty regularly in Florida and two species that cost a combined $385 just to add them to my now stagnant British list! From there we headed back south, picking up a Pec Sand in some farmers field and the long staying drake King Eider at the Ythan estuary, along the way. It was somewhere near Edinburgh where things started to go a bit Pete Tong. By now Jenny and myself had pretty much had enough of driving. Tempers were slightly touchy and this became very apparent on a roundabout. I could actually hear the Magic Roundabout music in my head as Jenny flipped her lid! Der de de der der der de dee der der. Jenny threatened Mark with violence, I think I ate my 20th scotch egg and the next thing I know we were in Sheffield! All plans of finding rares at Flamborough and Spurn were laid to ruin. Good job really as both sites were dead that weekend. Feck the Teletubbies this is what kids should be watching! My favorite was Dylan! The next thing I remember was getting home at 4am on Monday morning, 73 hours after leaving. At work later that morning my boss Richard was totally envious and we talked about dowitchers over a cuppa tea for a while. Later in the day I went for a walk around the reserve and sat on Stackpole head watching our resident pair of Chough. I fell asleep for a couple of hours to the sound of chow, chow and a singing Skylark. Now that's magical. I'll always cherish those hours we spent driving around Britain in that blue Skoda. Cosmic!